Agriculture and career and technical education fared well in the $6.6 billion Education Trust Fund (ETF) budget approved Thursday by the Alabama Legislature.
Alabama Farmers Federation Governmental and Agriculture Programs Director Brian Hardin thanked lawmakers for recognizing the importance of agriscience and workforce readiness programs.
“We appreciate legislators’ work to craft a balanced budget that funds all levels of education, from pre-kindergarten to higher ed, without raising taxes,” Hardin said. “It also provides funding for important programs like career tech, rural medicine and agriscience education.”
Hardin said the leadership of House Ways and Means Education Committee Chairman Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, and Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee Chairman Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, was vital to the budget’s passage.
The ETF provides $5 million for career tech operations and management. Another $5.4 million was set aside for the career tech initiative, including an additional $300,000 for agricultural education programs like Ag in the Classroom and Classroom in the Forest. The Liberty Learning Foundation, a citizenship education program supported by the Alfa Foundation and others, received $75,000.
Rural medicine programs at Auburn University, Tuskegee University, the University of Alabama and the University of Alabama in Huntsville were level funded at $2.4 million total. The Alabama Agricultural Land Grant Alliance received a slight increase to secure matching U.S. Department of Agriculture funds at Tuskegee University. The total appropriation was $5.3 million.
The Soil and Water Conservation Committee was level funded at $1.5 million, while the Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) program was up $250,000 to $2 million. Funding for the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station increased $881,000 to $32 million, and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System received an additional $919,000 to $33.4 million.
The ETF budget provides a 2.5 percent pay raise for teachers and education employees. It also includes a conditional appropriation of $7.4 million for grants to expand high-speed internet access under the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Act signed this week by Gov. Kay Ivey.